Belgium in Brief: Ready for the best day of the year?

Belgium in Brief: Ready for the best day of the year?
Credit: Orlando Whitehead

Of all the weekends you might wish for sun in Brussels, Car Free Sunday is surely the people's favourite – a day designed to show how the city would change if combustion engines were removed from the streets and people could amble unbothered. (It's quite a spectacle in rain as well.)

The pedestrian celebration is an undisputed highlight in the Belgian calendar, not limited to the capital but also taking place across the country. To align with a spell of fine weather serves only to heighten the general mood and make a case for rethinking our urban spaces for the enjoyment of residents.

To a non-Belgian, my first initiation to the Car Free concept was an eye-opener in the best of ways, the convivial spirit showing in warm greetings from strangers I had seen around town but never before approached. Bric-a-brac stalls fill neighbourhoods around the city and inclusive activities and performances unite locals; it's really the time to fill in the gaps in your mental map of places you normally wouldn't visit.

It is true that Brussels has been making moves to reclaim the streets as places for enjoyment, inspiration even, rather than conduits for through traffic. These efforts have met mixed responses: whilst few would contest now pedestrian concourse of Boulevard Anspach, many have vented frustration towards the Good Move policy whose worthy intentions have riled up some residents.

And whilst a solitary day of festivity is vastly different to a permanent transformation to transport flows, there is plenty to learn from the car free exercise that could be replicated at other occasions. As mentioned, the most compelling might be the sense of community that encourages – released from our speeding metal boxes, the atmosphere of mutual excitement and respect seems a million miles from Monday's road rage. Roll on Sunday.

Are you as excited as I am? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your coffee break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

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